Firefighters, a veterinarian and other emergency responders put forth a heart-wrenching, valiant effort Friday afternoon to rescue a horse that had fallen into an old well in Slippery Rock Township.
The horse was wet and muddy but alive when, about two hours later, the muscle of about 20 men finally pulled it free from the seven-foot-deep trench.
However, the equine, a 2-year-old Tennessee walking horse named Brave, suffered a badly broken leg and had to be euthanized, according to Dr. Rob Kissick of Silver Spring Equine, Portersville, who helped with the endeavor.
Kissick was in the trench on his hands and knees and lying on top of the horse trying to free its legs from stone, concrete, wood and branches that were down inside of it. He worked diligently with the rescuers, using ropes, boards, flat firehoses and other tools to pull the suffering 1 1/2-ton animal to freedom. It was just after 2 p.m. when Brave was finally freed.
The horse was whimpering and shivering when it was pulled free, then went on his side, exhausted.
"We did the kindest thing we could have done for him," Kissick said after the effort. "We helped him to heaven as peacefully as we could."
Brandi Hricik, who lives at 4101 Frew Mill Road, said she and her husband Tom, had been outside looking for the horse all morning and couldn't find him. Around noon, her husband found Brave had fallen into the pit, that apparently was an old well. Their clue was that another of their horses was standing near it and was led to safety.
They called for help, and soon, "all these amazing people showed up," she said.
The hole that Brave was in was about 5-by-5-feet, and he was seven feet below the ground.
Help turned out from the Slippery Rock Township Volunteer Fire Department and township workers, and members of the Lawrence County Department of Public Safety.
Doug Magill, Slippery Rock Township safety officer, was in charge of the scene. He said the units were called out for an animal rescue. Although he was raised on a farm with horses, he never had to rescue one before, he said.
They discovered that Brave fell into a concrete structure and they needed to call in a trench rescue team. They added a backhoe, and they opened an outlet for the horse, then carved out a pathway in the dirt to pull him through, Magill explained.
Kissick helped the rescuers tie the horses leg so it didn't kick, and once they freed it from the debris, they were able to pull it through the trench they had made, he said.
"The big thing was that when a horse gets excited, a hoof could knock you out with one strike," Magill said. "All you can do is secure the feet.
"There was a lot of thinking going on here, along with action," he said. "We had to know what we were going to do before we'd do it. The younger ones had to listen to us, to do what we needed to do in this kind of rescue."
His department was also assisted by the Neshannock Township Fire Company's trench rescue team. A large animal rescue team was summoned from North Strabane Township, at the Meadowlands, to help, but was canceled because the horse had been pulled out, Magill said.